Images and videos courtesy of Volkswagen Media.
It was December 12, 1966, when a 21-year-old Kathleen Brooks purchased her new 1967 Volkswagen Sedan. This California native would maintain and drive her VW daily for more than a half-century, covering more than 450,000 miles together. This car, which Kathleen named “Annie,” would carry her through marriage and divorce, several jobs, buying a house, starting a business, and three bouts of breast cancer. Her own experience with that disease led to her current occupation, offering fellow breast cancer survivors comfort and cosmetic care throughout their treatment and recovery.
She wrote to Volkswagen of America about her years with Annie, admitting that the car’s age and condition had come to preclude her from driving it long distances, but that it wears its years with pride. “Annie reminds me a lot of myself: old, faded, rusted, dinged, and dented… Someday I would love to get her restored…. Being old is a good thing — it’s just how you wear it!”
Annie was one of 339,971 Type 1s that Volkswagen sold in the USA for 1967, and this car exhibited the many large and small detail changes that marked that model year as a big one in the eight decades over which the Bug was designed and produced.
Under a reshaped engine lid was a new 1,493-cc flat-four engine that made 53 hp and 78 lb-ft of torque, improving in-gear flexibility and pushing the car’s top/cruising speed to 78 mph. A dual-circuit braking system added a fail-safe way to halt that progress. A 12-volt electrical system powered equally new sealed-beam headlamps, vertically mounted in revised front fenders, and standard reversing lamps over the back bumper. Thinner chrome moldings accented the body, while underneath, a revised rear suspension softened the ride. Two-speed windshield wipers added convenience, while recessed interior door handles and rubber dash knobs, redesigned door latches, and standard retractable front lap belts and front shoulder harness/rear seatbelt mounting points were new safety features.
Volkswagen of America took a keen interest in Kathleen’s story, having recently made news by announcing the forthcoming discontinuation of today’s Beetle in 2019. The automaker decided, with the help of its Puebla, Mexico, plant — the final site of Type 1 production, until 2003 — to restore Annie for Kathleen.
This would be an 11-month project that began in February 2018 and involved around 60 Volkswagen of Mexico employees and trainees, under the supervision of project manager and mechatronics engineer Augusto Zamudio.
Despite this black plate car having long called Southern California home, those dedicated VW workers found Annie‘s floorpans badly rusted; the suspension, four-speed transmission, and electrical system also required serious work. VW revealed, “The Puebla team replaced roughly 40 percent of Annie‘s parts and restored 357 original pieces, down to recreating the stickers that Brooks had added to the body and windows over the years. To properly restore her faded red paint, the team matched the original shade from the inside of the glovebox, sandblasted the body, repaired with a mix of period-correct and updated parts, and then reassembled.”
“Several parts of the vehicle were restored with better than their original factory parts, from the disc brakes that were an upgrade on later Beetles produced in Mexico to the AM/FM/Bluetooth stereo designed to mimic the look and feel of original Beetle radios. The wiring was completely redone, the transmission rebuilt, and suspension upgraded. The engine was completely disassembled, cleaned, updated, and rebuilt. Even the seats received a special touch, with ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Annie’ embroidered in a classic VW font over new leather. And to tie the car to the modern era, the car’s toolkit and jack was painted in deep sea teal metallic, the color of the 2018 Beetle Coast edition.”
Annie was visually back-dated a bit, being fitted with the 1966-earlier style of glass-covered headlamps, white steering wheel with a horn ring, and domed hubcaps, all modifications adding classic charm to this rejuvenated Bug; a custom luggage rack was the crowning touch.
“When Annie arrived, our team members quickly understood the connection Kathleen had with her car and embraced this project wholeheartedly,” explained Steffen Reiche, CEO of Volkswagen of Mexico. “Restoring this car posed a number of challenges, but also provided a demonstration of the dedication we put into every Volkswagen we build.”
Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Volkswagen of America, added, “We often hear stories of dedicated Volkswagen owners, but there was something special about Kathleen and Annie that we felt we needed to honor. The original Beetle launched our business in the United States. This isn’t just a Beetle, it’s a member of her family, and after all the time our employees have spent with this special vehicle, we feel Annie is a part of our family as well.”
Kathleen was understandably emotional when Annie came home in early December. Watch this film to see her reaction, and you too, might find a bit of dust has gotten in your eye.
“We have history together — we have a lot of history together. And she’s just been there for me,” Kathleen said. Now Annie can be there for Kathleen and her family for another 50 years or more.
Click on the thumbnails to see more images of this special Volkswagen’s restoration.